A Problem We Can’t Ignore: The Opiate Addiction Epidemic

By Robert Parmer, Conscious Life News

The world is in the middle of a huge crisis. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, addiction is a massive issue. In particular, the US has a experienced a gigantic wave of drug abuse, overprescription, and questionable recovery methods.

The numbers truly speak volumes about this issue. According to the Center of Disease Control:

  • Last year, 47,055 people died from drug overdoses.
  • This is the leading cause of death from injury; it’s responsible for 150% more deaths than auto accidents.
  • Opioids are involved in over 60% of the total death toll associated with overdoses.

And in regards to addiction to heroin and other opiates specifically, there is an equally bleak outlook:

  • The number of people who started to use heroin in the past year is also trending upwards.
  • Among new heroin users, approximately three out of four report abusing prescription opioids prior to using heroin.
  • Heroin-related deaths more than tripled between 2010 and 2014, with 10,574 heroin deaths in 2014.
  • One of these synthetic opioids, illegally-made fentanyl, drove the increase.

How Big Pharma Contributes to the Opiate Epidemic

The fact is, newer more potent drugs are being produced at an alarming rate. The for-profit mindset of Big Pharma convolutes the intended purpose of medicine and presents a dangerous outcome.

For example, the contemporary painkiller Fentanyl has become widely abused and is being rapidly produced. This drug is 50-100 times more potent than morphine and is typically used for those undergoing invasive health procedures or for post-op and cancer patients.

Since the pain-killing effects are so strong, Fentanyl has become a popular street drug as well. It is frequently cut with heroin or cocaine. The result is an intoxicating and threatening substance that’s claiming far too many lives.

A Drug Watch article points out the following:

“The global market for pharmaceuticals topped $1 trillion in sales in 2014. The world’s 10 largest drug companies generated $429.4 billion of that revenue. Five of the top 10 companies are headquartered in the US: Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Abbot Laboratories, Merck and Eli Lilly.”

It’s clear that the most powerful prescription drug companies are blinded by profits and they are used to sway doctor’s prescription rates.

The Problem With Overprescribing

Western medicine is masking symptoms instead of addressing long term issues. This is a direct example of a dangerous crossover: the big business of pharmaceuticals and the health and well-being of the general public have become convoluted.

A graphic from Beaches Recovery points out many important facts about opiate prescriptions and the corollary pills given after an overdose:

  • 9 out of 10 people who’ve overdosed on prescription painkillers have been prescribed more pills following an overdose.
  • Those who continue taking these painkillers after an overdose, will be twice as likely to overdose again within the following two years.
  • Overdoses on opiates have skyrocketed in the past six years, accounting for half a million deaths.
  • In many cases where opiate painkillers are prescribed, over-the-counter drugs such as naproxen and ibuprofen can be just as effective when combined with less invasive pain management.

Hopefully a shift will begin to occur. A shift in mindsets where more people consider alternative treatment instead of synthetic drugs.

The Link Between Mental Illness and Addiction

On top of skyrocketing addiction rates, the overall mental health of the US is also declining in recent years. In 2014 roughly 43.6 million Americans lived with a mental health problems. That is just over 18 percent of the adult population!

Addiction is common, especially in the cases of those with mental health disorders. While substance abuse and disorders such as depression and anxiety can be corollary, one does not implicitly cause another. That being said drugs and alcohol are often abused as an attempt of self-medication.

However, there’s a very beneficial method for controlling addiction that exists without the use of harsh drugs.

Counseling Outweighs More Prescriptions

What the world, and especially the US, needs is a shift from overprescribing. There are more feasible ways of helping people overcome drug addiction and they don’t involve medication at all.

Counseling gives people a way to talk about their problems and uses communication instead of overprescription. A resource by Wake Forest University elaborates on this subject by pointing out some common ways in which counselors aid in addiction recovery:

  • Through creating a therapeutic alliance with patients
  • By encouraging patient recovery
  • Helping patients develop a relapse prevention plan
  • Meet with family members to provide guidance
  • Refer patients to outside support groups

Those struggling with addiction don’t need to be prescribed more drugs, they need care and counseling. Through deliberate direction it’s possible to talk through issues and recognize the source, rather than masking addiction with more toxic drugs.


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